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Indian Family of 4 Found Frozen to Death Along US-Canada Border

Media reports and officials are suggesting that the people were caught between a human smuggling operation.

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Edited By :Tejas Harad

(This article was originally published on 22 January, and is being reposted after the High Commission of India, Ottawa, on 27/28 January, confirmed the identity of the family that died on the US-Canada border.)

In a heart-wrenching development, Manitoba Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) on Thursday, 20 January, revealed that a family of four, believed to be of Indian origin, died from exposure to extreme cold weather conditions on the Canadian side of the United States (US)-Canada border on Wednesday, 19 January.

India's External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar later took to social media and said he was 'shocked' by the news.

The four people were subsequently identified as an adult male, an adult female, an infant, and a male in his mid-teens.

In their official statement, the RCMP said that the deceased were found 10 km east of the town of Emerson, around 12 km away from the border.

Media reports and officials are suggesting that the family was on their route to cross into the US and was caught between a human smuggling operation.

On Thursday, RCMP Assistant Commissioner Jane MacLatchy broke the news to the press saying, "What I am about to share is going to be difficult for many people to hear."

'Shocked, Have Sought Urgent Response': Foreign Minister Dr Jaishankar

Reacting to the tragedy, Dr S Jaishankar stated:

"Shocked by the report that 4 Indian nationals, including an infant, have lost their lives at the Canada-US border. Have asked our Ambassadors in the US and Canada to urgently respond to the situation."
Dr Jaishankar

"It's a grave tragedy. An Indian consular team is travelling today from Consulate General of India, Toronto to Manitoba to coordinate and help. We'll work with Canadian authorities to investigate these disturbing events," High Commissioner of India to Canada Ajay Bisaria said.

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India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, also spoke on the matter and said they were in touch with US authorities on their ongoing investigation. He added that a team from the Consulate General of India in Chicago was scheduled to travel to Minnesota to provide any assistance required.

'Mind Blowing' Tragedy: Canadian PM Justin Trudeau

Speaking at a press conference, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the government was working "very closely" with the United States to stop people-smuggling across their shared border and provide help to those "taking unacceptable risks".

Calling it a "mind-blowing" tragedy, Trudeau said that it was tragic to see a family dying the way they did. He added that the people were victims of human traffickers and "of people who took advantage of their desire to build a better life," reported PTI.

"This is why we are doing all we can to discourage people from crossing the border in an irregular or illicit manner. We know there are great risks in doing so," the PM said.

Investigation On, 1 Person Arrested for Human Smuggling

According to the US Customs and Border Protection officials and media reports, the individuals were attempting to cross into the US.

The statement released on Thursday read:

"On the morning of 19 January, 2022, RCMP officers with the Integrated Border Enforcement Team received concerning information from their counterparts in the United States. Specifically, the information outlined that officers with the US Customs and Border Protection had apprehended a group of individuals who had crossed into the US from Canada... it indicated that one of the adults had items meant for an infant but that no infant was with the group."
RCMP

MacLatchy indicated that as per the RCMP, the four people were connected to a group that was apprehended on the US side of the border, PTI reported.

"The RCMP will be conducting a thorough investigation and is working in close collaboration with US Customs and Border Protection and the US Department of Homeland Security," the statement read further.

Meanwhile, the US Attorney's Office for the District of Minnesota informed that a 47-year-old man from Florida, identifying as Steve Shand, had been arrested and charged with human smuggling over the incident.

In the Department of Justice press release, it was noted that Shand was transporting undocumented Indian nationals in a white van.

What the Investigation Has Revealed So Far

US law enforcement further encountered five more Indian nationals, less than a kilometre south of the Canadian border, approaching the direction on which Shand was arrested, the release indicated.

The group of five had reportedly been walking for 11 hours and were expecting to be picked up by someone.

"One of the group members was in possession of a backpack that did not belong to him. He stated he was carrying the backpack for a family of four Indian nationals that had earlier walked with his group but had become separated during the night. The backpack contained children’s clothes, a diaper, toys, and some children’s medication," the press release read.

Meanwhile, reacting to the incident, office of the Minister of Public Safety expressed their "shock" and "sadness" at the tragic deaths of the four people, and offered condolences to their loved ones.

(With inputs from ANI and PTI.)

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Edited By :Tejas Harad
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